Matters Of Cephalopods


francois_icon.gif teo3_icon.gif

Scene Title Matters Of Cephalopods
Synopsis Recovering from difficult conversations, Teo subjects Francois to the same before lunch.
Date March 31, 2010

Greenwich Village: West 11th Street

After the sex, and a shower, Teo decided to cook lunch. He's cooking lunch now. It is kind of special— ceviche, which was one thing that had gone missing out of their Argentine date menu the other month.

Citrusy zest lights the kitchen, pushes fresh angles and a nervy brightness into air that had otherwise begun to grow flat, like stale soda, from the stubborn shuttering of Francois' home against the air. There are clams. Tomatoes, also. Fish that was odorlessly soft and made flavorful principally through the application of particular spices and things. He had left the octopus out after a slight skepticism detected in the line of Francois' brow, and it's been left to sit in refrigerated marinate until the Sicilian figures out something else to do with it, for a dish designed for later, private consumption.

Mixture's on boil, now, with nothing more than oregano, pepper, the black olives and the basil slated to join at various intervals. Teodoro is, in the interim, occupied with sitting at the table, with his elbows up in some uncouth fashion, chin nested on interlaced fingers, watching the diminutive purple pattern that the pale, decrescendo swoop of Francois' shoulder had netted out of his teeth in their earlier activity shift, shrink, flatten out again as the Frenchman manages the coffee press. Teo had given up pretending amazement at his lover's ability to operate the gadget only ten minutes ago, but even then, his preoccupations were probably obvious.

"Can I ask you something?" he asks, and without pausing. "How many relationships have you been in that you'd call— relationships?"

It isn't the kind of coffee you're meant to drink with milk and sugar, so it's served untainted by the time Francois is setting down the press and shuffling out of the kitchen bearing twin earthenware mugs. The kind with a vase-ish indent, flaring rim, meant to trap in heat or give the illusion of such. Rather than looking at Teo, Francois monitors the black pools of coffee leveled up to the brim, but he's already thinking when he's setting the coffee down. Counting, maybe. One quizzical green-eyed flash of a glance follows before a response.

"I don't know." It's something to admit, rather than deflection, nudging out a chair to sit, adjacent to Teo, sharing one round shoulder of table that's littered on one side with— things. Books and magazines, sheaths of paper, letters like bills and bank accounts. He'll clear it all before lunch is ready, or at least, deposit it on the living room coffeetable.

His fingers bracket around the mug, raising it, looking into his drink like he might scry the past from it. "I tried not to have many, but." But. Francois tends to have them anyway. "I could count them on two hands, I think."

"Oh, me too," is probably not deliberately intended to be an ironic or funny comparison to an ex-immortal career hero who's lived thrice as long as he has. Not that he spent much of his lifespan being a huge skank, or anything. A nervous gesture buzzes through his fingers, ends in a solid grasp of his whole hand around the mug, his palm and inner-knuckles sopping up the heat through the ceramic with unrepentant greed.

He remains distracted, however. The body is anticipating potable heat and artificially enhanced energy; the mind dwells on the frost-fractal delicacy of patterned blood vessels burst inside skin, hickeys and other designer bruises, and what they mean. To him, whomever else. Francois? Teo's brow knits briefly, and he remembers to put sugar in his coffee, a rote squirming of silverware into sugar pot, then in his mug. "I don't know if I've always been to modern, very maladjusted, or both plus Catholic. Opinions vary. I hear a lot of them. Do you—?"

Halfway to launch, Teodoro begins to reconsider the length of the runway. Too short? Too short. Momentum is inadequate, velocity flags, liftoff staggers, and communication failures tangle the towers. He clears his throat and straightens slightly, scratches the side of his long, aquiline nose with the handle of his stirring spoon. A fleck of coffee flies to splat the table's top. He pushes throttle forward for no reason better than because he's passed the point of no return.

"Do you want an open relationship?"

Either Teo spent much of his lifespan being a huge skank, or Francois just didn't get around around as much. Or maybe he's putting hard and fast qualifiers on what counts as a relationship — maybe that's what happens when you get old, making everything seem strangely proportionate, like there's a quota on how many people you can really love for as long as you're alive, the lesser-romances dimming into passing fancies while the true Juliets and Romeos burn brighter even as they fade with each passing year or replacement or. Orrr.

Or Teo is a huge skank. Anyway. Mysteries never fully explained because he's lifting his coffee mug to take a sip of warmth as Teo negotiates around words, peered at, patient.

Francois hovers it there for a little longer, and takes another long sip before setting it down. "That sounds like hard work," he says, a small smile not quite veiling the concern written in his studying stare across at his lover. This seems a strange line of interrogation before lunch. Or is it? Maybe more appropriate as pillowtalk, or Francois hasn't had enough coffee. "Did you?" he asks, simply.

Alarms and klaxons go off in the vast and vacuous hangar that = Teodoro's skull. The concern on the Frenchman's face would have had to be extremely veiled to have escaped unnoticed, and the Sicilian's attention span beings to circle it neurotically. He takes his mouth off the rim of the mug, half its sweetened contents drained, now. His reflection is smaller in the dark surface. He feels smaller.

"No," but that's an honest answer. When Teo gets neurotic, he doesn't necessarily lie more; if anything, he might do so less. He inhales the smells of citrus and fear. "I don't like the idea very much. Never have. Used to really piss off some people with my territorial bullshit, especially since I wasn't all that emotionally useful on every other level back then. But—"

Sometimes Juliets and Romeos are sporadic strobe flashes, phases, instead of a steadfast incandenscence. Kissing before Antarctica goes nuclear might have been one of those flashes. Maybe there is light that Francois turns his back upon because of… "Not that much work," he segues, as unsteady, hapless, but game-faced as he had been gimping across fresh snow with one hand in Francois' the day they first tumbled into the brownstone together. They'd wound up in the kitchen then, too. "I mean, I'm pretty sure you could do okay." He glances up, nips a brief smile into view across his mangled face.

"Humility is so boring."

He stands up, and goes to poke the ceviche in the pot with a long-handled spoon.

"Non, it would be hard work. I'm not being humble." Argument, mildly spoken. "I would have to find other people who agree that such a thing is a good idea, and then I would have to convince you it is a good idea. I do not believe 2010 is so progressive." There is an urge to stand up and go to him, but if the younger man wants to put distance, poke at boiling food instead, then Francois lets him have it — leans an elbow agains the edge of the table, meanwhile, places his chin in his open palm with his other fingers hooked around the curving coffee cup handle.

Squints a little. He doesn't quite have klaxons going off in his head, but one can imagine that those would get annoying after seventy or so years. Could be he found an off-switch to neurosis, eventually. "I don't want an open relationship," he says, making a decision at least to speak plainly, because the answer itself is not very difficult.

Teo shakes herbs into the pot and then checks the timer before staying the olives. For another few seconds, at least. No need to overdo those; there are few things more gross than mushy olives, in Teodoro's opinion. Maybe his own transparency is kind of gross. He doesn't know. Anyway, he is taste-testing the liquid soup part and pretending that requires some attention, which may or may not excuse the infinite ridiculousness of his next remark:

"I could not mind if you want to be with other people sometimes."

Not even Teodoro fails to realize that that was a ridiculous thing to say. The spoon goes rattling down, in an abrupt short-circuiting from self-exasperation overload; he roughs his palm left to right across his face, ignoring even how the keloid-ridged hole in his cheek warps and stretches under the friction. His hands can't stop moving after that: he cracks open the olive jar, its yellow metal cap scraping audibly against the glass.

But I said I don't want an

Francois' jaw sets, clenches off a fraction sideways in something like exasperation as well as biting back the more useless words ready to spring out. Takes a moment to sip coffee, deeply enough that he can disappear his nose into the wide ceramic rim before it's set down with a clunk of stone to wood, and behind Teo, the chair scrapes a little on the kitchen tile when Francois goes to stand up. His feet are light enough against the ground that Teo can really only tell he's being closed in on a couple of seconds before fingertips find the small of his back.

His touch is as unassuming as his voice. "Why are you asking these things?" and his tone is all gentle curiousity, eyeline scouting out the horizon of Teo's shoulders, his own bared ones relaxed, posture casual.

Ah, touches. Teo squirms invisibly. Tok-tok, and olives tumble into the mixture. He takes up the ladel again and manages to push the small black fruit under the surface of its contents before his hands are abruptly relegated to an awkward uselessness. It is he who peers at the ceviche, and the ceviche stares back. Don't be an asshole, the ceviche recommends.

"I don't know." A last desultory poke, and then the wooden handle goes up to lay on the rim, bridging the seafood. Teo glances at the last of the tortillas waiting in the pan. The previously toasted ones are…

Somewhere. He forgot. Microwave, probably, protecting them from the possibility of fruit flies or ants or roaches or other things that the house isn't lived-in enough to bear host to yet. "I'm talking around something, I guess, but I'm not sure what it is. I talked to Abigail recently. Then Alexander. I don't know," he repeats, in case that wasn't clear. "I think maybe I really fucked this up by starting it wrong."

Old age cultivates a thick skin but even Francois can't not feel a twinge, a pang, at this reminder. It doesn't show anyway, of course, because insulation from external things works the other way around — fingertips pick out the ridge of spine that makes a pattern out of slightly darker skin than that of his hands. And besides, Teo hasn't turned back to him. "You did not really want me," he summarises. "Not in the way that someone else did. And I wanted her. Mon ange, is what I said to her, when she rescued me."

Francois won't be the first person to compare Abby to some celestial beauty of generousity and kindness, triteness recognised by the self-deprecating smile in his voice. His hands smooth around Teo's waist, down enough to grip his hips not uncomfortably— at least, not physically uncomfortably, but invisible squirming is invisible— and his chin brushes against the Sicilian's shoulder.

"But I think you want me now, and I want you. Or you are the worst kind of liar."

"I do." Teo shrugs his shoulder up underneath the Frenchman's chin, which is kind of like a hug except just with a shoulder, and maybe also his ear. His ear is an affectionate press against Francois' cheek, and his breath whuffs out with some canine sentiment. Satisfaction, possibly. Desperation, otherwise. Something with a lot of air in it, as things inside or that come out of his ragged blond head are wont to be. Tattoos, scars, and a lifetime of recreational misdemeanor may suggest that he's too big for being held but.

He'd disagree, maybe. One of maybe three things he has in common with sordidly good-hearted young women who are easily mistaken for angels. Invisibly invisible squirming dies down to an erratic twitch. His eyes shift restlessly across the food, and he turns on the other set of stove coils. "There's J— Alexander, too. I mean. He misses me, the kind where — he can't fucking stand to be around me anymore.

"It," and his verbiage does that thing where it grows oddly academic, slows down, draws each accentless syllable out to a carefully, clinically refined point, as if to buffer itself from the full weight of its own meaning, "reinforces the impression that I'm prone to mistakes, and possibly am one. So. Uh. Sorry. I'm sure my equivocation is.

"Tiresome," he finishes, finally. He leans back. A tribal eagle closes its inky pinions covetously over Francois' heart, or something like that; he shifts his arm back, and the bicep scar that reads, Never knows best shifts closer. There's a lot of trite to go around.

The redhead with the changing face and name, who speaks in one of the more comforting American accents to Francois' ears, not that he was very generous with his words even when he wasn't in the Frenchman's presence. He only knows his story as much as it pertains to Teo and doesn't have a right to the crinkle in his brow that shows after Teo's words. Francois' arms move to settle easier around Sicilian waist, one hand gripping the wrist of the other.

"I'm sorry," Francois offers, after short, moderately judgmental silence. "If it is worth much, the mistakes of others are less abhorrent to be around than your own mistakes, oui? Perhaps your friend has made his own mistakes and needs time before he remembers that he is your friend also."

His chin lifts off Teo's shoulder, for the moment, though his loose hold remains, the press of his chest to Teo's back. "Can I ask you something?" And he pauses for a response.

Deet, deet, deet. The microwave blithely declares that the recipe is complete, and Teo is wont to agree. He turns the stove off and still smells spices and lemonjuice and crisply handled seafood, less fear, despite that the former has been in the air for awhile and it seems unreasonable for the latter to have entirely left just yet. Teodoro raises an arm and deets the timer off.

He lets his arm falls again. He briefly considers turning around to look Francois in the eye while this question is asked, but opts not to. This is pretty comfortable. And besides, if he were doing the whole girl thing, he'd be wondering at the way Francois had phrased his earlier rejection of opening said relationship up, like it was just too much work, or that Teo was too much work rather than—

—anyway, Teo isn't doing the girl thing. 'No' was a good answer. Maybe he can give good answers too. He adds his hand to the link of fingers around Francois' wrist, and settles slightly into the older man's grasp, discreetly fractioning more weight against the span of his lover's bare chest.

If Teo turned around, it is highly possible that Francois would have diverted and asked when lunch would be ready instead. The guy thing. Weight is taken with grace, standing secure as he thinks over his own phrasing — neurosis is one of those things that can be shared, like disease, spread around. "When?" he settles on, simply, before companiably setting his chin back down on Teo's shoulder. Between shower and now, he didn't shave, slight scratch of stubble accompanying the doggish weight.

Probably bears explanation. His fingers curl beneath Teo's hand to confirm it against his palm in the same way their bodies are molding together. "When did you decide you wanted me for better reasons?"

Physical contact in place of eye-contact probably implies some kind of cowardice but it's nice. And they'll look at each other later. Soon. Teo lets his finger reconfigure its segmented concave around Francois'. It's possible that the Sicilian climbed out of his own egotism long enough to appreciate the weight of this question; that it wasn't the easiest one in the world for Francois to ask him. "Uhh."

No that isn't his final answer. Teodoro is just thinking about how to phrase it. "Probably the first time you let me sleep with you," seems like a better way to phrase it than what he was originally about to serve up in wryly frank verbiage. "In Ryazan, that apartment, and I was drunk and. Fuckin'. Sulking, I guess. And you told me to bring Abigail back. That's when it started, I mean.

"I mean, I already knew you were stupid brave, dedicated to saving the world and cared about good people and shit," Teo scrapes those other things into a pile on the edge of the metaphorical plate, where they look pretty and smell savory but are otherwise less important. "But when you were nice to me. And gave me a pity fuck. It's hard to explain: that wasn't part of any game."

There's a small huff of laughter, warm breath easier to feel than it is to hear, when those traits get ticked off and pushed away. In other news, from the way Francois' body conforms closer to Teo's with the loop of his embrace squeezing a fraction tighter means that that was potentially— the correct answer. Or at least not the wrong one, whatever that might have been. "Then let us say we started there," he suggests, against the side of Teo's neck, now, before he's withdrawing his arms back from around Teo's waist, hand drifting to squeeze a clasp at Teo's hip before backing off further.

The tepid warmth of the kitchen air doesn't stand a chance of competing against the furnace-like heat of Teo's skin, but a comfortable enough transition once detached. He rests a hip, now, against the kitchen counter, offers a quicker smile that betrays only a slight amount of— concern, such as when this conversation started. To assume everything is as okay as he figured it was when he woke up seems foolish, somehow.

But Teo made them lunch. That has to count for something, and count toward positive integers also. He is dishing it up into plates, a handsome dollop of brightly flavored seafood per each of the two starting tostadas. Teodoro carries them over to the dining table very hastily, lest it cool before they have a chance to enjoy, and the meal be ruined, Francois' mood further with it. Teo is not that bad at reading people.

He can tell. It could be worse. Francois could know that he'd awakened in the morning to an infinitely recognizable Ghost kneeling on the bed in the black pool of his own coat, bodily clasped over Francois' sleeping frame with one arm stealing down to tunnel the faint notch of shadow below the Frenchman's hipbone, and they'd stared at each other as a contemptuous snarl of a grin exposed all the older Teo's teeth, and the teeth had gone to peel at the shell of Francois' ear before Teo had chased him off.

Clutched Francois defensively for the fifteen minutes France spent waking up, and that was how their morning's embrace had started. Open relationships and questions of other could-be lovers are relatively negligible concerns, probably. "You're hungry," he says, pulling out one chair with his foot. He holds out one callused hand, hopefully. "Or willing to pretend you are. Oui?"

"Si." Francois pushes his weight back off the counter with a shift of muscle beneath the white scars on his belly, drifts on over as if gravitationally drawn towards him, and lets his hand rests in Teo's, briefly, for the amount of time he can steer himself on over towards the chair. Dumps himself into the appropriate seating place and picking up a fork with which to attack seafood, though lets the utensil twirl a little between his fingers as he looks the dish over because he is—

Checking for octopus, as opposed to anything much deeper and existential than that despite the crinkle of worry that has worked its way into self-assurance and peace. Between sex in the morning and a cooked lunch in a sunlit kitchen, something so domestic as ironing that out can't be so difficult to do, badum-ching.

"Your equivocating is rarely tiring," he decides upon, as silver prongs spear a piece of white fish. "But if I did miss something, you will tell me in no uncertain terms."

Teo pushes his lover's chair in for him, and is a consummate gentleman for the moment it takes to settle the four legs back onto the floor and lean over to push the flatware into view. Consummate gentlemen, that is, if consummate gentlemen go about nice meals with half their clothes missing, hickeys. Teo sets a bare elbow down on the back of Francois' chair once it's in. He puts his nose in the Frenchman's hair, angling the gashed side of his face away, while Francois conducts his indiscreet search. Snf sniff. Snfsnf.

Musk, cologne, and supposedly wasabe-scented shampoo make a pleasant combination, a dozen notes more complex than ceviche and separately enjoyable. "In matters of cephalopods and those of the heart alike, you have my word," he muffles out, before lifting his head, a parody of his earlier stodgy academia-speak except in a romantically archaic flourish. He squeezes out a kiss on Francois' scalp, and straightens. Tells the back of Francois' head, "Thank you."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License